When Orlando Cruz meets Orlando Salido in a battle for the vacant WBO Featherweight Championship on Saturday night, it will mark the biggest fight of his life—not only because of the chance to win a major title, but also because of the message he plans to convey.
According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, Cruz plans to wear rainbow-emblazoned attire in an effort to support LGBT rights, as well as pink boxing gloves to represent Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The native of Puerto Rico is the first openly gay male boxer, according to Iole, which makes Saturday's bout quite significant.
With a record of 20-2-1 (10 KOs), the 32-year-old Cruz has scratched and clawed his way into this position, but he won't have an easy go of it by any means, as the 39-12-2 (27 KOs) Salido has a great deal of big-fight experience.
The main event of the evening at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas will pit undefeated Timothy Bradley against Juan Manuel Marquez in a clash between the last two fighters to beat Manny Pacquiao, but plenty of hopeful eyes will be on Cruz as he fights for the betterment of his career and the LGBT community.
Since officially coming out as gay, a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, according to an interview conducted by Steve Bunce of The Independent. "I now feel free to just get on with the boxing," said Cruz. "I'm not fighting two opponents any longer and that is a great relief. The nights of staying awake and crying are over."
Cruz has already crushed preconceived notions by making it as far as he has in the sport. He has proven that he is more than capable of holding his own, and a win on Saturday would make him one of the elite fighters in the featherweight division.
Although gay athletes are supported now more than ever before, Cruz has a chance to really open up some eyes this weekend. Even if he doesn't win on the scorecards, however, his mere presence will be a major victory for the LGBT community.
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